Is the Freedom Foundation an anti-immigrant organization or just a band of bigoted extremists?

The Freedom Foundation has claimed they might be showing up at union members’ homes unannounced in the coming months. While we don’t know if this is actually true (They tend to stretch the truth about what their organization does), this should be a cause for concern for anyone who values the safety and well-being of our immigrant and non-white neighbors.

Leaders across the political spectrum have recently rejected the horrific practice of separating immigrant children from their parents, with some comparing it to the policies of Nazi Germany or Japanese Internment during World War II. Conservative former first lady, Laura Bush, wrote a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post lambasting the Trump Administration’s so-called zero-tolerance policy, and Cardinal Dolan, a leading conservative Catholic, blasted the practice, writing: “That’s just unjust. That’s un-American and unbiblical.”

While conservative leaders are lining up against the administration and placing the blame where it belongs, Matt Hayward, a lead Freedom Foundation staffer, blamed the migrant families themselves, writing on social media:  “The only people responsible for children being separated from their parents are the parents.” In the same post, he wrote: “Manipulative and delusional people use victimization as a tool to avoid or shift responsibility.”

As far as we know, Matt Hayward is in charge of the so-called “grassroots operation” of the Freedom Foundation in Washington. He has a history of violent behavior and rhetoric; Hayward was once convicted of a violent felony and has joked about bringing a gun to the homes of union members. With this in mind, his recent comments on immigrants and their children are even more chilling.

It’s not surprising that the Freedom Foundation would put a potentially violent bigot in charge of their canvass operation in Washington. We’ve documented their tolerance of bigoted canvasser, Jac Cates, their ties to white supremacists, their work with an anti-LGBTQ hate group and the time their former lead Oregon staffer opened a rally for anti-immigrant Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

Former Freedom Foundation staffer Anne Marie Gurney at a rally for Joe Arpaio

The few legislative allies the Freedom Foundation has are a veritable who’s who of white supremacists and the alt-right. Take into account Rep. Mike Nearman from Oregon, a shameless white nationalist who seems to take great pride in threatening the livelihoods and rights of immigrants. As one of the leaders of the hate group Oregonians for Immigration Reform, Nearman has built his political career on alienating immigrant communities and using immigrants as a scapegoat for various societal problems.

According to the highly respected Southern Poverty Law Center, Oregonians for Immigration Reform is an anti-immigrant hate group focused on destroying immigrant communities’ access to basic civic protections and benefits like access to basic public safety. The SPLC had this to say about Nearman’s group:

“Founded in 2000, the McMinnville-based Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) is the most prominent anti-immigrant group in the state. OFIR presents itself as a group “advocating for an environmentally sustainable level of immigration,” but, for almost two decades OFIR has demonized immigrants while working closely with nationally recognized anti-immigrant groups and figures.  OFIR’s co-founders and current leadership also have longstanding ties to hate groups and a history of making racist statements.” (Southern Poverty Law Center, April 2018)

While the Freedom Foundation has never taken an official stance on immigration issues (as far as we know), the views of their lead staff, allies and friends in the legislature should give everyone pause as to what their agenda would be if they ever held any actual power in the Northwest. More immediately though, it’s of great concern as to what would happen if they knocked on the door of an immigrant family.

Sign up to learn more about the project.